Video shows a Palm Beach County sheriff's detective before he shot his girlfriend and himself. (Photo: Palm Beach Post)
Eliot Kleinberg and Hannah Winston, Palm Beach Post
BOYNTON BEACH, Fla.
A woman shot Oct. 12 by a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office detective who then fatally shot himself, told investigators that he told her, “You treat me worse than a dog,” moments before firing his gun, according to documents released Friday.
Surveillance video made public by Boynton Beach police show the moment of rage and terror that ended with Yuly Solano critically injured, and Michael DeMarco dead on the asphalt of the Inlet Harbor Club condominium complex.
On the video, DeMarco, dressed in his sheriff’s uniform and driving his unmarked sheriff’s car, approaches Solano as she walks her dog, Coco, at the Federal Highway complex. Then he pulls out his service weapon and shoots her once in the arm and twice in the chest before slumping and placing the handgun to his head.
In a Nov. 8 hospital-bed conversation with detectives -- apparently the first time they could talk to the severely injured woman -- Solano also said she’d ended their relationship a few weeks before the shooting “because he was being racist and very possessive of her.”
Solano also told detectives she had planned to file formal complaints about DeMarco with the condo board and property managers, but had not gotten around to it before the shooting, according to the documents.
The interview is part of a 65-item package of materials released Friday. Boynton Beach police released 160 pages of documents Nov. 6, and said the remainder were withheld at the time because police hadn’t yet been able to interview Solano and so could not close the case.
The package released Friday includes two surveillance videos provided by Inlet Harbor managers and taken from different angles.
A video that runs 1 minute 10 seconds shows Solano and her dog walking through the parking lot of the complex north of Gateway Boulevard just after 8 a.m.
DeMarco then pulls up and steps out of his car. As Solano walks away from him, he follows. The pair move out of view then Solano comes back into the frame, retreating from Marco with her hand to her face. DeMarco’s gun comes into frame before he does.
The video then jumps to Solano and DeMarco on the ground. Solano’s dog jumps on DeMarco’s body and the video ends. Boynton Beach police said the skip in the video is how they received it and say they did not edit it.
The other video, 22 seconds long, shows DeMarco approaching with his gun out.
A spokeswoman for Solano’s lawyer, Gary Iscoe, who sued Inlet Harbor and its property manager on Nov. 16, did not want to comment Friday on the videos or the documents.
Just one or two minutes before he shot Solano, a calm and unhurried DeMarco spent 10 minutes on the phone with a colleague, according to other documents within the new reports. DeMarco had asked deputy Claudia Palenzuela to back him up on an eviction he was handling at 9:30 a.m. on Military Trail, Palenzuela told Boynton Beach police.
Solano told investigators Nov. 8 that as DeMarco confronted her, she called out to a maintenance man, Robert Rozzero, who moments earlier had talked with DeMarco about the New York Yankees baseball playoff game the previous night. He said DeMarco fired the first shot into her chest, and she did not know if he’d shot her again because the first shot had deafened her.
Rozzero, 48, said he saw DeMarco drive up to Solano and get out and grab her arm. She saw her pull away and saw DeMarco fire his gun. Rozzero and the Inlet Harbor manager, who had not seen the shooting, called 911.
Officers arrived to find DeMarco on his back, dressed in khaki pants, black boots and a black sheriff’s polo shirt, embroidered with “D/S. M. DeMarco.” “D/S” is “deputy sheriff.”
His black department-issued Glock .40-caliber handgun was near his body. DeMarco had shot himself in the chest and right temple. Firefighters declared him dead at the scene and officers covered his body with a blanket.
Solano was about 4 feet away. She was “screaming in pain and fear,” a report said.
She told officers she was having trouble breathing, but also told them to go to her apartment and check on her “baby,” her 18-year-old daughter, Aryana Baluja.
Baluja later told an officer her mother had left to walk Coco, and she heard four gunshots. She said as she looked out her window, she saw the dog and saw DeMarco’s car with the driver’s side door open, “and knew that something was wrong.”
Solano was taken to Delray Medical Center. Detectives came there at about 9:30 a.m. and learned Solano was being rushed into surgery. About 90 minutes later, doctors told the detectives she’d been shot three times -- once in the forearm and twice in the chest. She was in critical but stable condition and was unable to talk to investigators.
Later, at her bedside, she nodded and scribbled notes to Baluja, who sat holding her hand. But Solano was groggy from medication and slipped in and out of consciousness.
Baluja told detectives she and her mother lived in a different part of Inlet Harbor from DeMarco and met him there in May 2017. He invited them to dinner, and he and her mother later began a relationship.
For the first two months, she said, DeMarco was “a nice guy” who helped teach her to drive and inspired her to pursue a career, even giving her a desk to help with her college studies. Then, she said, DeMarco and her mother began to argue over “jealousy issues.” When Solano would talk in Spanish to her parents in Peru, DeMarco would grow angry and ask what she was saying.
Baluja so far has declined, both directly and through her lawyers, several interview requests by The Post. She did tell the online news outlet Dailymail.com, in a story posted Tuesday, that three of her mother’s ribs were broken and parts of her lung had to be removed. She said her mother’s arm and vocal cords are also paralyzed, and it was hard for her to talk. But, she said her mother is now walking.
“She’s fighting,” Baluja told the website. “She’s continuing to stay positive.”
Baluja also said she’d set up a GoFundMe account to help offset medical costs for her mother while she continues her college classes.
Solano’s lawyers have threatened to sue the Sheriff’s Office as well, saying it failed either to care for or supervise DeMarco, who they say was “clearly battling mental duress and emotional troubles,” in a proper manner. DeMarco spent more than two decades with the Sheriff’s Office and had consistently high marks on evaluations. To date, the Sheriff’s Office has not commented.
In the reports, sheriff’s Lt. Chuck Morris told Boynton Beach police DeMarco had told him a week before the shooting that he was going through a breakup with Solano and mentioned their legal fight over bedroom furniture. He’d filed a small-claims suit Sept. 27.
DeMarco told Morris that Solano had believed the items were a gift, but he considered them joint property because he had planned to marry Solano. Morris said DeMarco told him he’d gone through the courts “so as not to be accused of stalking or harassing phone calls.”
Solano told a different story. She said DeMarco had been so obsessed with their relationship. He had demanded she go with him to look at paint colors for their apartment. She said that after the breakup, DeMarco had told her he wanted the furniture back because he did not want her “to have another man sleep on the mattress that he had purchased for them.” And she said she believed DeMarco had scratched her name from the mailbox in the lobby of the community clubhouse
In the report, Rozzero told police Solano had told him DeMarco “had been harassing her by constantly calling her cellphone and sending e-mails in the early morning hours. The phone calls were to a point that she had to block his phone.”
He said after the pair broke up, Solano asked him not to give DeMarco a key to her apartment if he asked. She told Rozzero she might have to get a restraining order.
Homeowners association officer Riley Cooney told police Solano had told him DeMarco “was crazy.” Cooney said he never saw the two argue in public.
A report said a detective checked Solano’s phone and found “it appears that text messages from DeMarco had been erased,” except for a few screen shots of a conversation. The phone did show a text message from DeMarco’s brother, Frank Dunkow, asking “what went wrong” between the two. Dunkow, 52, was arrested on federal fraud charges Oct. 12, the same day as the shooting.
Lawyers for Solano have said she complained of harassment by DeMarco to both the condo association and the management office. Both city police and the Sheriff’s Office have said they have no record of Solano making a formal complaint. And the police reports released Friday also said that “no official correspondence or reports or harassment were reported to Inlet Harbor.”
Solano told police she had planned to report the incidents formally but “did not have a chance.”